Vaselen – Awakening The Spring Maiden

vaselenNow that the festival of the returning light – many call it by its Irish name Imbolc – has passed, time must not be wasted. The agricultural cycle of the year is already in full swing, even though we cannot see it in the apparent world. But we do know that with the Winter Solstice a couple of months ago the seeds buried deep in the frozen ground have changed, albeit ever so minutely. With the February festival of Lichtmess (read more about here) the farmers have started to pay close attention to the land, and have started to prepare themselves for the months of hard labor to come.

So, what to do in the meantime? Well, you certainly remember when you were a kid and your mom or dad, or whoever your caregiver was during your school years, came to your room and woke you up in the morning. You definitely caught the, “Wake up!” or “Up and at’em” when they bolted into your room. But wasn’t there something else that you heard, felt in your whole body? Something that was as familiar to you as their voices, their smells, their hugs? It was the footsteps that you heard as they were approaching your door, that subtle tremble of the floor that brought you out of your deep slumber even before the door handle was turned. That, together with the daylight penetrating your closed eyelids, causing your pineal gland to inhibit further release of the hormone melatonin, you body’s own “sleeping pill”, prepared you to wake up the moment you heard the familiar words.

We could easily compare the sunlight, hitting the Earth’s surface now a bit over an hour longer than at the darkest time of the year, the Winter Solstice, with the daylight entering your window. While the increasing strength of the Sun may prepare the Spring Maiden to slowly rouse and eventually spread her green coat over the land, who’s footstep could make her feel that someone is coming to wake her up?

This is where vaselen comes in. This Old High German term means something like “making fertile”, and people of old did that by stomping the ground. Rhythmically. Also known as dancing.

In today’s German, vaselen is known as Fasching or Fas(t)nacht, the version of carnival celebrated in the German speaking lands. What we do in Fasching is we party, feast and drink, and dance the nights away. Stomping the ground. There is a fair amount of alcohol involved, people dress up, frivolous at times, and lose their inhibitors. Masks soften moral and societal boundaries. I have a lot of friends with a November birthday…

Making fertile is the motto. And no matter if you live on a farm, have a vegetable garden in your back yard, or a few pots for tomatoes and herbs on your terrace or balcony, why not throw a party, with lots of dancing. Everything else is optional. Just make good choices…

Read more about Alpine folk customs in my book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps”, which is available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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